Hunger remains a global trend, and for Africans, it is a common occurrence, as human beings have lived and continue to live with and experience different degrees of hunger and starvation.
Looking back to several years gone, particularly the 19th Century, the Great Irish Hunger readily comes to mind, which it will be recalled, forced many to flee their countries to the United States of America.
In the 1980s, Ethiopia was on world headline news as a country ravaged by hunger; so severe was the famine that it attracted an unprecedented global attention and sympathy, with musical icons coming together to support other efforts with a musical concert-‘USA for Africa’ to raise money for hunger victims. Years later, Somalia came frontally under the throes of food shortages, a tragedy that has become part of the country’s history and made worst by the civil war that ravaged the country for more than 20 years.
But the parody is that in spite of the advancement in agricultural sciences and technology, many countries are still not out of the pangs of hunger and starvation, and its reduction remains a challenge to all. A joint report by United Nations food agencies, including the World Food Programme, WFP, and the Food and Agricultural Organisation, FAO, said one in nine persons in the world do not have enough to eat. Of the over 7.3 billion world population, about 805 million (11.3percent) are hungry. At the same time, 98percent of the world’s malnourished people live in developing countries.
Worst hit are Asia (525.6million), Sub-Saharan Africa (214million) and Latin America and the Caribbean (37million). Although, Asia has been able to cut its hunger figure by about 30percent due to its socioeconomic progress in the last two decades, Africa on the other hand, recorded an increase from 175million between 1990 and 1992, to 239million between 2010 and 2012, which shows that the continent is losing the battle against hunger, as well as that of fighting poverty and diseases.
Another shocking revelation is that 60percent of the world’s hungry persons are women, 50percent of whom are pregnant women in developing countries. Hunger also causes one third of all childhood deaths in sub-Saharan Africa.
In the same vein, of the about 66million primary school children that attend classes, a hungry 23million are Africans.
Although, hunger kills more people every year than HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis combined, this bad news is due principally to poor harvest caused by drought, flooding, growing population and urbanisation, as well as the rising cost and conversion of food crops such as maize into fuel (ethanol).
And whereas there are more mouths to feed, there is less food available.
But come to think of it, given our abundant resources (human and natural), Nigerians and indeed, Africans need not be hungry. In terms of natural resources, the continent is very blessed, but what is lacking in Africa is the ability and capacity to develop this abundant natural resource to conveniently feed itself as well as create wealth for the society.
Though it is often argued that droughts and other natural disasters are responsible for the hunger in Africa, these challenges are not insurmountable.
If countries like Kuwait, Brazil, Thailand, Georgia, Cuba, Venezuela, etc have achieved great successes in reducing the total number of hungry people in proportion to their national population, we see no reason why other countries including ours, would allow poverty to take a heavy toll on their citizenry as it is the case presently. One major reason for this ugly situation is corruption resulting from bad governance, greed and selfishness on the part of the leaders on one hand and laziness and unwillingness to embrace agriculture by the citizens.
This accounts for the continued prevalence of illiteracy, maternal and child mortality, terminal diseases, civil strife and conflicts, poverty, and squalor across the continent.
To reverse the situation and be among the top leading countries, African leaders must start the task of enthroning the culture of good governance; this we believe, is the panacea to reducing hunger among our people and meeting the set millennium goals of halving the proportion of hungry people by end of 2015.